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U.S. Department of State Daily Press Briefing #134, 98-12-08

U.S. State Department: Daily Press Briefings Directory - Previous Article - Next Article

From: The Department of State Foreign Affairs Network (DOSFAN) at <http://www.state.gov>


580

U.S. Department of State
Daily Press Briefing

I N D E X

Tuesday, December 8, 1998

Briefer: James B. Foley

NIGERIA
1		U.S. Congratulates People of Nigeria on Recent Elections

IRAQ 1 Status of UNSCOM Inspections

NORTH KOREA 1-2 US-DPRK Talks Completed For Today/Resuming on Thursday in New York 2-3 Reported Building of Three Underground Missile Bases by North Korea 4-5 Status of Food Aid to North Korea 4,5 Improvement in Relations with U.S./Prospects for Easing Sanctions

SOUTH KOREA 3-4 Dr. Perry's Visit to Region/Discussion of North Korea / Proposals by President Kim

CHINA/IRAN 3 Reported Export of Missiles and Technology to Iran

AUSTRALIA 5 Former USG Official's Call for Australian Government to Consider Proposal to Store Weapons-Grade Plutonium from Russian Warheads

RUSSIA/IRAN 5-6 Reported Russian Assistance to Iran in Developing BW Capability

RUSSIA 6-7 Reported Murder of Western Hostages in Chechnya

MIDDLE EAST PEACE PROCESS 7 Dennis Ross in Region/Discussions

LIBYA 8 UN Secretary General Annan's Meeting in Libya

EGYPT 8 Travel by Assistant Secretary Indyk/Purpose/Onward Travel Plans

CAMBODIA 8-9 Cambodia's Seat at the United Nations

TURKEY/ITALY/GERMANY 9 Status of Ocalan Case


U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
OFF-CAMERA DAILY PRESS BRIEFING

DPB #134

TUESDAY, DECEMBER 8, 1998, 1:30 P.M.
(ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)

MR. FOLEY: Good afternoon. I just have one announcement that I'm going to post. It notes our congratulations to the people of Nigeria, the Independent National Electoral Commission, and the Government of Nigeria, for the overall peaceful and professional conduct of local government elections on Saturday, December 5. We obviously wish Nigeria well on its continued transition, in view of the state, federal and presidential elections that will take place next year: its complete transition to democracy.

QUESTION: Can you tell us anything about how the inspectors are doing in Iraq?

MR. FOLEY: Well, I don't have a read-out of how they're doing today. Do you mean in relation to Chairman Butler's announcement of inspections today? I don't have that; I'd have to refer you to UNSCOM.

UNSCOM is proceeding with inspections according to its mandate. I think it would be useful to clarify at least the language, though, which the Iraqis have used to describe some of these inspections. For political purposes, the Iraqis have had a habit of calling every inspection a "surprise" inspection so that they can claim that they're giving full cooperation.

For example, when inspectors go to a site that they've been to many times before, the Iraqis call it a "surprise" inspection only because UNSCOM gives Iraq little or no notice before-hand. But Chairman Butler, as you saw today, has correctly used the word "surprise" to describe a no-notice inspection, possibly to a completely new site.

Certainly as far as UNSCOM's mandate is concerned, there's no delineation between different types of inspections. The cardinal rule here is that UNSCOM is mandated to inspect any time, anywhere, as it sees fit.

Now, I don't have a read-out on those inspections that are apparently occurring today, but what I would suggest to you is that, as I indicated yesterday, what the United States is looking forward to is Chairman Butler's and the IAEA's report, soon, to the Security Council, on the status and level of Iraqi cooperation.

QUESTION: As that was unproductive, could you do the Korea talks -- if you've got something on that?

MR. FOLEY: The talks that are going on here in the building? My understanding is that those talks have completed for today, and they are going to resume in New York on Thursday. Perhaps we'll have more to say to you about those serious talks later in the week, but I have nothing for you today.

QUESTION: Is there any progress at all to report?

MR. FOLEY: I have nothing to report on the meeting, either positively or negatively. It's not something that we do: report on an ongoing negotiation. I would hope that we'll be in a position to say something about those talks when this round is completed, which may be Thursday in New York, if not Friday, but certainly by the close of the week.

QUESTION: Why move to New York; why couldn't they continue them here?

MR. FOLEY: I don't know the answer to that. I think it's a minor point; I can check for you. But it was envisaged, I can tell you that, because I've known that for several days - that the plan was: If they didn't wrap it up here, that they would take a day's break, presumably for consultations with capitals, and then resume in New York. I wouldn't read anything of importance into the change of venue. They started in New York; they resumed here, and they're going to continue in New York.

QUESTION: So they are spilling over?

MR. FOLEY: I wouldn't read - I'm not in a position to reflect on the fact that they're continuing into another day.

QUESTION: Right, but you would concede that, according to the schedule you presented us, they are being extended?

MR. FOLEY: They are being extended, yes -- without reading anything into that fact.

QUESTION: The only subject is the underground installation?

MR. FOLEY: Yes.

QUESTION: Same subject: Do you have anything on this Japanese report that the North Koreans are building three underground bases for launching ballistic missiles?

MR. FOLEY: I don't have anything new today. We were aware of this report some weeks ago, and I can tell you what we were prepared to say several weeks ago, when that happened. But I have nothing sort of in response to the question that was raised yesterday.

We've noted on several previous occasions that North Korea's missile proliferation activities are of serious concern to the United States. The DPRK has been producing/exporting Scud missiles for the past decade. It's also well-known that the DPRK has been developing the No Dong missile with a range of 1,000 kilometers, as well as two longer-range missiles. It's marketed its missile technology and equipment to several countries, including Iran, Syria and Pakistan.

These activities underscore why the US places a continuing high priority on missile non-proliferation and is working closely with other like-minded countries to curb the flow of missile equipment and technology worldwide.

We are vigorously pressing for restraints on North Korea's development, deployment and export of missile equipment and technology, and have made clear that further launches of long-range missiles, or further exports of such missiles, or related technology, would have very negative consequences for efforts to improve US-DPRK relations.

Now, in response to your specific question: I think it would not be appropriate for me to comment about what we know concerning the details of North Korea's missile development activities. I'm not in a position to do so.

That's it?

QUESTION: No.

(Laughter.)

Exports of missiles to China - to Iran, I'm sorry -- export of missiles and technology to Iran: Has the United States raised a formal protest to the Chinese Government?

MR. FOLEY: Let me just finish with this. I spoke at length about this yesterday, so maybe after the briefing, I can get you what we had.

QUESTION: I'm sorry, Jim, did you answer the question about the South Korean proposal of inducements?

MR. FOLEY: I wasn't asked.

QUESTION: Okay, well what do you think of the South Korean proposals?

MR. FOLEY: You're referring to Dr. Perry's visit?

QUESTION: Kim Dae-Jung's.

MR. FOLEY: -- and what was reported that the South Korean side had proposed in that meeting. Let me just say that the purpose of Dr. Perry's trip, overall, to Asia - to South Korea, China and Japan - is to gather information, as he and his delegation conduct a comprehensive policy review.

They had an excellent meeting with President Kim, in which the President described his thinking about North Korea. Dr. Perry and his delegation were able to ask President Kim a number of questions, as part of the review. President Kim's answers will be studied carefully.

As Dr. Perry emphasized, however, the delegation went to listen, not to present any views of its own; and they have not come to any judgments. So this is not something that we're going to comment on, at this stage.

QUESTION: But you ruled out compensation earlier.

MR. FOLEY: Yes, very clearly. We'll stand by that, but I think the question has to do with larger questions, though. The compensation question has to do, as I understand it, with the focus, in this respect, on the access to the suspect site, where we have certainly ruled out compensation.

QUESTION: The broader issue - how to deal with North Korea: Haven't you been down that path, though, of offering them the possibility of lifting economic sanctions and engagement, and it hasn't worked basically?

MR. FOLEY: The US has no plans to take any further steps on easing sanctions at this time. Certainly in the context of future developments, were there to be: an improvement in the prospects for a permanent peace on the Korean Peninsula in the context, therefore, of the Four-Party Talks; also, if we were to see changes in North Korean attitudes on other issues of concern, including the missile area, where we have separate talks, we would be willing to look at an improved relationship between the United States and North Korea, in which those kind of issues, including sanctions, would be on the table.

But if you're asking me today, on the basis of this report, as to whether we're entertaining something like that, now all I can say is, as I indicated, that we don't have plans to take any further steps on easing sanctions at this time. Concerning the specific proposal of President Kim, it's something we're going to be studying. But as I said very clearly, Dr. Perry was out in the region and continues his visit in a strictly listening mode.

QUESTION: May I ask about food aid? What's your latest assessment on whether or not North Korea would need more?

MR. FOLEY: I'd have to check the answer for you, for the record. I'm not aware what the latest developments have been. As you know, we have a record of responding favorably to appeals from the World Food Program, and we undertook a substantial commitment to deliver increased amounts of food aid for, I believe, calendar year 1998, which is coming to a close.

I don't know where we stand with the World Food Program's latest request, whether there have been any in recent days and months; so I'll check the record and get back to you if there's anything new.

QUESTION: You use the term "serious consequences" in relation to future missile launches from North Korea. I'm wondering what that means for a country where you have no diplomatic relations, and the only aid that we give them is food aid, and the little bit of fuel oil money is still stopped-up in Congress. Are you suggesting some kind of military strike or something? What does "serious consequences" mean?

MR. FOLEY: Well, let me repeat what I said - would have very negative consequences for efforts to improve US-DPRK relations. That is very specific; it doesn't get into the areas that you are speculating on or implying.

The fact is that the DPRK is seeking an improved relationship with the United States. We're willing to entertain that possibility, if our concerns can be addressed in the various fora in which we're negotiating.

QUESTION: You might not have anything on this, but there was an article in The Australian today, based on an interview with Bob Gallucci, in which he is calling on the Australian Government to open itself up to a proposal for storing weapons-grade plutonium taken out of Russian warheads. I'm wondering whether that's something that's being discussed here, if you could take the question.

MR. FOLEY: I'll have to take the question; that's the first I've heard of it.

QUESTION: Did you see the article in the Times about Russians helping Iran develop a biological weapons capability?

MR. FOLEY: I did.

QUESTION: Any comment?

MR. FOLEY: Yes, we do not comment on intelligence matters.

QUESTION: Is that the best you can do?

MR. FOLEY: I can do more. The US Government remains concerned about Iranian attempts to obtain any weapons of mass destruction technology from Russia or other countries. Russia's economic problems have negatively affected its weapons scientific community, and we are concerned about the possibility that scientists and engineers will be hired by Iran or other countries of proliferation concern.

As you know, the US Government has provided over $30 million in assistance to former Soviet bio-technology institutes from Fiscal Year '92 through '98, through a number of programs designed to counter the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and delivery system expertise from the former Soviet Union, and to secure weapons material. Nearly $2 million more has been allocated for these activities in Fiscal Year '99.

I can go through with you what those programs are - there are four or five of them, some administered by the Defense Department, some by the Department of Energy. I believe Mr. Bacon has some more specific information on those programs. But the ultimate aim of these programs, though, is to help prevent the diversion of Russian expertise in this area to countries of proliferation concern, and to help encourage the transformation of some of this expertise from the military to the civilian mode inside Russia itself.

QUESTION: Is there a clear understanding that the Iranians are trying to develop biological weapons, even though they signed the 1972 convention?

MR. FOLEY: Well, first of all, let me say that the dual-use nature of biotechnology makes it very difficult to distinguish legitimate research from weapons research. Iran is on the US list of state sponsors of terrorism, and is also a country which the United States believes is developing a biological weapons capability. Therefore, any attempt by Iran to develop such weapons will be counter to their BWC commitments.

QUESTION: Can you say whether all these programs are actually working? I mean, if you have instances where scientists are -

MR. FOLEY: Well, I'm not in a position to judge - at least standing here today - whether we believe there is any leakage. Certainly, as I indicated, there is serious economic difficulties in Russia, and these difficulties have impacted on scientists who work in these areas of concern. I can't give you a judgment as to whether our assistance has helped make this potential leakage impermeable. It's an ongoing matter of concern, and that's why we have these programs; and these programs, I think, are well- understood and supported in Congress, because they meet a critical US national security interest, and so we're going to continue funding them.

QUESTION: One of the complaints about Iran is that they have been trying to develop weapons of mass destruction. But I don't think you've said specifically that the Iranians are trying to develop biological weapons.

MR. FOLEY: I just said it.

QUESTION: All right --

MR. FOLEY: Iran is on the US list of state sponsors of terrorism, and is also a country the US believes is developing biological weapons capability.

QUESTION: Also, on Russia, did you have anything on - I mean, concerns about this incident in Chechnya, where foreigners were kidnapped and then found decapitated?

MR. FOLEY: That's a gruesome report; I had not heard that before coming in here. Obviously, that would be a matter of great concern, but I have not heard the story. I'll check afterwards to see if we have any information on it.

QUESTION: Wye agreement: Any new intervention, mediation on the US side, to ensure that the withdrawal does go ahead next week?

MR. FOLEY: Well, I'm not going to have a lot for you on this today, with Ambassador Ross there in the region. He's working the problem, and all the issues related to Wye implementation, and is in touch with Secretary Albright, who is currently in Brussels. So I don't have a lot of direct information myself. I wouldn't make this podium the locus of authoritative comment on that, given that the concerned officials are outside of the country right now. But let me just say a few words.

First, that the Wye memorandum was signed and affirmed by both the Government of Israel and the PA. As we've said before, we expect both sides to fulfill their commitments. Certainly, as you indicate, concerns have been expressed about implementation. That's why Ambassador Ross is there right now. He's talking to both sides and he's going to continue to work to facilitate the process of advancing Wye implementation.

QUESTION: What would be the impact on the Wye agreement if the Israeli Government would fall?

MR. FOLEY: Well, I'm not going to address a hypothetical question; you know that. But let me repeat what I just said a minute ago, which is that the Wye agreement was signed by the Government of Israel as well as the Palestinian Authority. We expect both Israel and the PA to stand by their commitments that were agreed to by the mandate of authorities.

QUESTION: Okay, they're not - I guess what you're saying is regardless of the government in power, the Wye memorandum should be implemented. Is that - -

MR. FOLEY: We believe the Wye memorandum should be implemented, yes.

QUESTION: Even by successor administrations?

MR. FOLEY: Yes.

QUESTION: Is Ambassador Ross discussing further Israeli redeployments?

MR. FOLEY: Well, he's discussing all the issues pertaining to Wye implementation. That's one of them. I don't need to go through with you the - I see Charlie shaking his head there. By the way, it's an empty bluff - my saying so - since I don't have the Wye memorandum at my fingertips the way Jamie Rubin does, who was there at Wye. But it entails all kinds of commitments according to a timetable, and certainly redeployments is part of that.

QUESTION: Do you have a more detailed read-out on the Annan-Qadhafi meeting?

MR. FOLEY: I have nothing further on that for you today. We're still awaiting the transfer of the suspects to The Hague.

QUESTION: Martin Indyk: I believe he's in the Middle East?

MR. FOLEY: Yes.

QUESTION: Can you tell us what he's doing, what his schedule is?

MR. FOLEY: I don't have his schedule at my fingertips, so we'll check after the briefing and see if we've got more for you. I know he went to Egypt, where there was a scheduled meeting of a US-Egyptian committee; but I don't now what his onward travel plans, if any, are.

QUESTION: Particularly if he's going to Syria or Lebanon.

MR. FOLEY: I don't know that. We'll check. If I've got that, I'll give it to you after the briefing.

QUESTION: Now that Cambodia has apparently reclaimed its seat at the UN, do you expect, first of all, that the United States will resume aid; and do you anticipate that there will be any congressional opposition to that resumption in aid?

MR. FOLEY: I believe you asked that question last week, and I think it's premature for us to answer. I have no change in US policy to announce.

It is true that we went along with, or voted for, the resumption of the Cambodian seat in the United Nations, which we felt was a proper gesture to make, following the constitution of the new government, following the elections there. I wouldn't rule anything in, or anything out.

Certainly we haven't changed our policy on that. The aid that we do give goes, on the one hand, for de-mining activities - which is certainly supported in the Congress; and on the other hand, humanitarian aid is channeled directly through NGOs. There were other categories of aid that was suspended last year, and we are not poised to change policy in that regard.

I believe there's congressional legislation that would have to be fulfilled, or that the Secretary has to certify certain steps, positive steps, that the Cambodians have taken, for us to be able to resume aid of that kind. We're not in a position to do that now, but we're certainly going to be watching the situation as it unfolds, to see whether this new government and this new political arrangement moves forward, in the absence of violence, in the absence of intimidation, working in the interests of the people in Cambodia who, after all, rather with a lot of faith in democracy, turned out in large numbers to vote. Their hopes have been expressed, and we want to see those hopes translated into reality by the new government there. So we're going to be watching that.

I don't rule anything in or out for the longer run, but it's not something we're looking at in the immediate short-term.

QUESTION: In the context of Holocaust assets - there's been a lot of noise about the proposed merger between Deutsche Bank and the Banker's Trust.

MR. FOLEY: This doesn't sound to me like a question I'm going to have an answer for, but go ahead.

QUESTION: Well, Eizenstat's office in the past has said things about similar cases, basically, calling for non-intervention in these kinds of things.

MR. FOLEY: A merger between -

QUESTION: Deutsche Bank and Banker's Trust?

MR. FOLEY: I'm not certainly aware that the State Department from this podium has commented on such matters previously. I have nothing for you on that.

QUESTION: Can we stick to that policy?

MR. FOLEY: Across the board - I'd put you out of business, George, if I -

QUESTION: On those issues.

MR. FOLEY: Oh, you're limiting the area.

QUESTION: I think the "no comment" is just fine.

MR. FOLEY: Another editorial from The Associated Press.

QUESTION: Encouraging you not to answer questions. Anyway, yesterday I asked you about Ocalan and this idea even the EU -

MR. FOLEY: I don't have anything new for you on that.

QUESTION: Okay.

MR. FOLEY: I'm going to disappoint you, but we're not pronouncing on that. All I can tell you is that we're working with Italy, with Germany and with Turkey, in an effort to promote a solution whereby Ocalan is brought to justice. I'm not here to comment on particular proposals, though.

Thank you.

(The briefing concluded at 1:50 P.M.)


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